Chemist makes hand sanitiser in laboratory

The Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI) uses resources to provide hand sanitiser to community 

Dr. Reece Gately is an IHMRI Technical Officer with a PhD in Chemistry.  He has used his scientific knowledge and laboratory resources to supply hand sanitiser to the Wollongong branch of Cancer Council, for their Transport to Treatment program.

The program usually employs retirees to transport local cancer patients to and from treatment, but has undergone significant change in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Grant Plecas, community lead for Cancer Council Southern NSW, said IHMRI’s donation of hand sanitisers will allow this vital work to continue. However, changes have been made to the usual driver program.

“The health and wellbeing of our volunteers, staff and patients is paramount. We want to protect all involved as we continue to operate this critical service to the community,” he said.

“Cancer Council NSW has replaced key volunteer drivers in their Transport to Treatment program with staff, and others who are not in the ‘at risk’ category, as volunteers’ health is at the front of mind.”

Getting the right formula

WHO grade hand sanitiser

The World Health Organization has released instructions on how to create high-strength hand sanitiser.

The WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care provides direction and formulations to create hand sanitiser with sufficient alcohol to be effective against certain germs. 

Some gel-type sanitisers may contain other ingredients, such as thickeners. Consequently, this may reduce the alcohol concentration below the recommended 80-85% levels.

“Whilst over 60% alcohol content is effective against bacteria, the higher concentrations have a better chance of fighting a broader spectrum of nasty microorganisms.  Checking the alcohol concentration is important,” said Dr. Gately.

Hand washing with warm soapy water for 20 seconds is still the most recommended form of hand hygiene for fighting COVID-19. 

However, IHMRI Chief Operating Officer Kara Lamond hopes that this donation will give peace of mind to the drivers at Cancer Council.

“We are glad we’re able to support local programs which provide care and transport to cancer patients. The volunteers or staff who drive patients to treatment might not have access to hand washing facilities,” she said.

“We hope that this donation of hand sanitisers from IHMRI helps volunteers, staff and patients, and allows this valuable service to carry on safely.”

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